US Army Wants Ultium Battery Prototype From GM Defense

The US Department of Defense is serious about doing its homework on the shift to battery electric vehicles. The Army has purchased a Canoo electric van and a GMC Hummer EV for analysis as part of its Light Electric Reconnaissance Vehicle (eLRV) program. Earlier this month, the Army placed an order for two Volcon Stag battery-electric side-by-sides. Now, the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), created to accelerate the military’s incorporation of commercial technology, has asked GM to develop a prototype Ultium battery “for testing and analysis on Department of Defense platforms” for garrison and operational environments. No one has mentioned the battlefield specifically for any of these tests yet. In military parlance, an operational environment means the various conditions in which a soldier or squad must work, covering everything from time and weather to local infrastructure and enemy weapons.

The DIU wants a robust and scalable power source for tactical vehicles. The evolutionary part seems licked; GM has developed the Ultium system of battery cells and chemistries, battery sizes and layouts, vehicle architecture and software to be modular enough to serve its own line of electric vehicles across its line of brands. GM Defense will also have a head start on the review of tactical applications. The automaker won the contract to supply the Army’s latest infantry squad vehicle, based on the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2, and shortly thereafter introduced a battery-powered version for military brass. GM Defense boss Steve duMont has already said his team will develop a prototype military electric vehicle based on the new Hummer.

The military is considering hybrid-electric battlefield vehicles alongside these pure-electric efforts. The branch has awarded BAE Systems a contract to develop two Abrams Hybrid Main Battle Tanks (MBTs). The MBTs, which can “operate in silent mode for approximately six hours” and display improved weapon performance over their traditional counterparts, are undergoing a years-long prototype testing phase that will conclude later this year. The same branch awarded Gale Banks Engineering a contract to develop a hybrid Humvee and awarded Matbock a contract to develop a hybrid joint light tactical vehicle. Both transports will begin testing next year. Whichever vehicles win, they’ll all need batteries, which could give GM Defense and Ultium a big enough opening to get a tank through no matter what happens with the Hummer EV.

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